Current Status Introducing Body:
SenateBill Number: 860Ratification Number: 520Act Number: 437Primary Sponsor: HayesType of Legislation: GBSubject: Uniform Trade Secrets ActDate Bill Passed both Bodies: Jun 02, 1992Computer Document Number: BR1/1498.ACGovernor's Action: SDate of Governor's Action: Jun 15, 1992Introduced Date: Apr 09, 1991Date of Last Amendment: May 27, 1992Last History Body: ------Last History Date: Jun 15, 1992Last History Type: Act No. 437Scope of Legislation: StatewideAll Sponsors: HayesType of Legislation: General Bill
Bill Body Date Action Description CMN ---- ------ ------------ ------------------------------ --- 860 ------ Jun 15, 1992 Act No. 437 860 ------ Jun 15, 1992 Signed by Governor 860 ------ Jun 04, 1992 Ratified R 520 860 Senate Jun 02, 1992 Concurred in House amendment, enrolled for ratification 860 House May 28, 1992 Read third time, returned to Senate with amendment 860 House May 27, 1992 Amended, read second time 860 House May 14, 1992 Committee Report: Favorable 26 with amendment 860 House Mar 25, 1992 Introduced, read first time, 26 referred to Committee 860 Senate Mar 24, 1992 Read third time, sent to House 860 Senate Mar 19, 1992 Read second time 860 Senate Mar 18, 1992 Committee Report: Favorable 11 860 Senate Apr 09, 1991 Introduced, read first time, 11 referred to CommitteeView additional legislative information at the LPITS web site.
(A437, R520, S860)
AN ACT TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING CHAPTER 8 TO TITLE 39 SO AS TO ENACT THE UNIFORM TRADE SECRETS ACT.
Whereas, the General Assembly has determined to enact the Uniform Trade Secrets Act; and
Whereas, the members of the General Assembly in order to facilitate an understanding of the provisions of the act and the reasons for its provisions have included the prefatory notes and comments of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. Now, therefore,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
A valid patent provides a legal monopoly for seventeen years in exchange for public disclosure of an invention. If, however, the courts ultimately decide that the Patent Office improperly issued a patent, an invention will have been disclosed to competitors with no corresponding benefit. In view of the substantial number of patents that are invalidated by the courts, many businesses now elect to protect commercially valuable information through reliance upon the state law of trade secret protection, Kewanee Oil Co. V. Bicron Corp., 416 U.S. 470 (1974), which establishes that neither the Patent Clause of the United States Constitution nor the federal patent laws preempt state trade secret protection for patentable or unpatentable information, may well have increased the extent of this reliance.
The recent decision in Aronson v. Quick Point Pencil Co., 99 S.Ct. 1096, 201 USPQ 1 (1979) reaffirmed Kewanee and held that federal patent law is not a barrier to a contract in which someone agrees to pay a continuing royalty in exchange for the disclosure of trade secrets concerning a product.
Notwithstanding the commercial importance of state trade secret law to interstate business, this law has not developed satisfactorily. In the first place, its development is uneven. Although there typically are a substantial number of reported decisions in states that are commercial centers, this is not the case in less populous and more agricultural jurisdictions. Secondly, even in states in which there has been significant litigation, there is undue uncertainty concerning the parameters of trade secret protection, and the appropriate remedies for misappropriation of a trade secret. One commentator observed:
"Under technological and economic pressures, industry continues to rely on trade secret protection despite the doubtful and confused status of both common law and statutory remedies. Clear, uniform trade secret protection is urgently needed."
"Theft of Trade Secrets: The Need for a Statutory Solution", 120 U.Pa.L.Rev. 378, 380-81 (1971).
In spite of this need, the most widely accepted rules of trade secret law, Section 757 of the Restatement of Torts, were among the sections omitted from the Restatement of Torts, 2d (1978).
The Uniform Act codifies the basic principles of common law trade secret protection, preserving its essential distinctions from patent law.
Under both the act and common law principles, for example, more than one person can be entitled to trade secret protection with respect to the same information, and analysis involving the "reverse engineering" of a lawfully obtained product in order to discover a trade secret is permissible. Compare Uniform Act, Section 1(2) (misappropriation means acquisition of a trade secret by means that should be known to be improper and unauthorized disclosure or use of information that one should know is the trade secret of another) with Miller v. Owens-Illinois, Inc., 187 USOQ 47, 48 (D.MD.1975) (alternative holding) (prior, independent discovery a complete defense to liability for misappropriation) and Wesley-Jessen, Inc., v. Reynolds, 182 USPQ 135, 44-45, (N.D. Ill.1974) (alternative holding) (unrestricted sale and lease of camera that could be reverse engineered in several days to reveal alleged trade secrets preclude relief for misappropriation).
For liability to exist under this act, a Section 1(4) trade secret must exist and either a person's acquisition of the trade secret, disclosure of the trade secret to others, or use of the trade secret must be improper under Section 1(2). The mere copying of an unpatented item is not actionable.
Like traditional trade secret law, the Uniform Act contains general concepts. The contribution of the Uniform Act is substitution of unitary definitions of trade secret and trade secret misappropriation, and a single statute of limitations for the various property, quasi-contractual, and violation of fiduciary relationship theories of noncontractual liability utilized at common law. The Uniform Act also codifies the results of the better reasoned cases concerning the remedies for trade secret misappropriation.
On February 17, 1968, the Conference's subcommittee on Scope and Program reported to the Conference's Executive Committee as follows:
"14. Uniform Trade Secrets Protection Act.
This matter came to the subcommittee from the Patent Law Section of the American Bar Association from President Pierce, Commissioner Joiner, and Allison Dunham. It appears that in 1966 the Patent Section of the American Bar Association extensively discussed a resolution to the effect that `the ABA favors the enactment of a uniform state law to protect against the wrongful disclosure or wrongful appropriation of trade secrets, know-how or other information maintained in confidence by another.' It was decided, however, not to put such a resolution to a vote at that time but that the appropriate Patent Section Committee would further consider the problem. In determining what would be appropriate for the Conference to do at this juncture, the following points should be considered:
(1) At the present much is going on by way of statutory development, both federally and in the states.
(2) There is a fundamental policy conflict still unresolved in that the current state statutes that protect trade secrets tend to keep innovations secret, while our federal patent policy is generally designed to encourage public disclosure of innovations. It may be possible to devise a sensible compromise between these two basic policies that will work, but to do so demands coordination of the statutory reform efforts of both the federal government and the states.
(3) The Section on Patents, the ABA group that is closest to this problem, is not yet ready to take a definite position.
It is recommended that a special committee be appointed to investigate the question of the drafting of a uniform act relating to trade secret protection and to establish liaison with the Patent Law Section, the Corporation, Banking and Business Law Section, and the Antitrust Law Section of the American Bar Association."
The Executive Committee, at its midyear meeting held February 17 and 18, 1968, in Chicago, Illinois, "voted to authorize the appointment of a special committee on Uniform Trade Secrets Protection Act to investigate the question of drafting an act on the subject with instructions to establish liaison with the Patent Law Section, the Corporation, Banking and Business Law Section, and the Antitrust Law Section of the American Bar Association." Pursuant to that action, a special committee was appointed, which included Professor Richard Cosway of Seattle, Washington, who is the only original committee member to serve to the present day. The following year saw substantial changes in the membership of the committee. Professor Richard F. Dole, Jr., of Iowa City, Iowa, became a member then and has served as a member ever since.
The work of the committee went before the conference first on Thursday afternoon, August 10, 1972, when it was one of three acts considered on first reading. Thereafter, for a variety of reasons, the committee became inactive, and regrettably, its original chairman died on December 7, 1974. In 1976, the committee became active again and presented a fifth tentative draft of its proposed bill at the 1978 annual meeting of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
Despite the fact that there had previously been a first reading, the committee was of the opinion that, because of the lapse of time, the 1978 presentation should also be considered a first reading. The conference concurred, and the bill was proposed for final reading and adoption at the 1979 annual meeting.
On August 9, 1979, the act was approved and recommended for enactment in all the states. Following discussions with members of the bar and bench, the Special Committee proposed amendments to Sections 2(b), 3(a), 7, and 11 that clarified the intent of the 1979 Official Text. On August 8, 1985, these four clarifying amendments were approved and recommended for enactment in all the states.
Definitions, violations, damages, badfaith claims, protective orders, procedures, exceptions
SECTION 2. The 1976 Code is amended by adding:
Section 39-8-1. As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise:
(1) `Improper means' includes theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of a duty to maintain secrecy, or espionage through electronic or other means.
(2) `Misappropriation' means:
(i) acquisition of a trade secret of another by a person who knows or has reason to know that the trade secret was acquired by improper means; or
(ii) disclosure or use of a trade secret of another without express or implied consent by a person who
(A) used improper means to acquire knowledge of the trade secret; or
(B) at the time of disclosure or use, knew or had reason to know that his knowledge of the trade secret was
(I) derived from or through a person who had utilized improper means to acquire it;
(II) acquired under circumstances giving rise to a duty to maintain its secrecy or limit its use; or
(III) derived from or through a person who owed a duty to the person seeking relief to maintain its secrecy or limit its use; or
(C) before a material change of his position, knew or had reason to know that it was a trade secret and that knowledge of it had been acquired by accident or mistake.
(3) `Person' means an individual, corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, association, joint venture, government, governmental subdivision or agency, or any other legal or commercial entity.
(4) `Trade secret' means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that:
(i) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and
(ii) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
One of the broadly stated policies behind trade secret law is the "maintenance of standards of commercial ethics." Kewanee Oil Co. V. Bicron Corp., 416 U.S. 470 (1974). The Restatement of Torts, Section 757, Comment (f), notes: "A complete catalogue of improper means is not possible," but Section 1(1) includes a partial listing.
Proper means include:
1. discovery by independent invention;
2. discovery by "reverse engineering", that is, by starting with the known product and working backward to find the method by which it was developed. The acquisition of the known product must, of course, also be by a fair and honest means, such as purchase of the item on the open market for reverse engineering to be lawful;
3. discovery under a license from the owner of the trade secret;
4. observation of the item in public use or on public display;
5. obtaining the trade secret from published literature.
Improper means could include otherwise lawful conduct which is improper under the circumstances; e.g., an airplane overflight used as aerial reconnaissance to determine the competitor's plant layout during construction of the plant. E. I. duPont de Nemours & Co., Inc. v. Christopher, 431 F.2d 1012 (CA 5, 1970), cert. den. 400 U.S. 1024 (1970). Because the trade secret can be destroyed through public knowledge, the unauthorized disclosure of a trade secret is also a misappropriation.
The type of accident or mistake that can result in a misappropriation under Section 1(2)(ii)(C) involves conduct by a person seeking relief that does not constitute a failure of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy under Section 1(4)(ii).
The definition of "trade secret" contains a reasonable departure from the Restatement of Torts (First) definition which required that a trade secret be "continuously used in one's business." The broader definition in the proposed act extends protection to a plaintiff who has not yet had an opportunity or acquired the means to put a trade secret to use. The definition includes information that has commercial value from a negative viewpoint, for example the results of lengthy and expensive research which proves that a certain process will not work could be of great value to a competitor.
Cf. Telex Corp. v. IBM Corp., 510 F.2d 894 (CA 10, 1975) per curiam, cert. dismissed 423 U.S. 802 (1975) (liability imposed for developmental cost savings with respect to product not marketed). Because a trade secret need not be exclusive to confer a competitive advantage, different independent developers can acquire rights in the same trade secret.
The words "method, technique" are intended to include the concept of "know-how".
The language "not being generally known to and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by other persons" does not require that information be generally known to the public for trade secret rights to be lost. If the principal persons who can obtain economic benefit from information are aware of it, there is no trade secret. A method of casting metal, for example, may be unknown to the general public but readily known within the foundry industry.
Information is readily ascertainable if it is available in trade journals, reference books, or published materials. Often, the nature of a product lends itself to being readily copied as soon as it is available on the market. On the other hand, if reverse engineering is lengthy and expensive, a person who discovers the trade secret through reverse engineering can have a trade secret in the information obtained from reverse engineering.
Finally, reasonable efforts to maintain secrecy have been held to include advising employees of the existence of a trade secret, limiting access to a trade secret on "need to know basis", and controlling plant access. On the other hand, public disclosure of information through display, trade journal publications, advertising, or other carelessness can preclude protection.
The efforts required to maintain secrecy are those "reasonable under the circumstances". The courts do not require that extreme and unduly expensive procedures be taken to protect trade secrets against flagrant industrial espionage. See E. I. duPont de Nemours & Co., Inc. v. Christopher, supra. It follows that reasonable use of a trade secret including controlled disclosure to employees and licensees is consistent with the requirement of relative secrecy.
Section 39-8-2. (a) Actual or threatened misappropriation may be enjoined. Upon application to the court, an injunction shall be terminated when the trade secret has ceased to exist, but the injunction may be continued for an additional reasonable period of time in order to eliminate commercial advantage that otherwise would be derived from the misappropriation.
(b) In exceptional circumstances, an injunction may condition future use upon payment of a reasonable royalty for no longer than the period of time for which use could have been prohibited. Exceptional circumstances include, but are not limited to, a material and prejudicial change of position before acquiring knowledge or reason to know of misappropriation that renders a prohibitive injunction inequitable.
(c) In appropriate circumstances, affirmative acts to protect a trade secret may be compelled by court order.
Injunctions restraining future use and disclosure of misappropriated trade secrets frequently are sought. Although punitive perpetual injunction has been granted, e.g., Elcor Chemical Corp. v. Agri-Sul, Inc., 494 S.W. 2d 204 (Tex.Civ.App. 1973), Section 2(a) of this act adopts the position of the trend of authority limiting the duration of injunctive relief to the extent of the temporal advantage over good faith competitors gained by a misappropriator. See, e.g., K-2 Ski Co. v. Head Ski Co., Inc., 506 F.2d 471 (CA9, 1974) (maximum appropriate duration of both temporary and permanent injunctive relief is the period of time it would have taken defendant to discover trade secrets lawfully through either independent development or reverse engineering of plaintiff's products).
The general principle of Section 2(a) and (b) is that an injunction should last for as long as is necessary, but no longer than is necessary to eliminate the commercial advantage of "lead time" with respect to good faith competitors that a person has obtained through misappropriation. Subject to any additional period of restraint necessary to negate lead time, an injunction accordingly should terminate when a former trade secret becomes either generally known to good faith competitors or generally knowable to them because of the lawful availability of products that can be reverse engineered to reveal a trade secret.
For example, assume that A has a valuable trade secret of which B and C, the other industry members, are originally unaware. If B subsequently misappropriates the trade secret and is enjoined from use, but C later lawfully reverse engineers the trade secret, the injunction restraining B is subject to termination as soon as B's lead time has been dissipated. All of the persons who could derive economic value from use of the information are now aware of it, and there is no longer a trade secret under Section 1(4). It would be anticompetitive to continue to restrain B after any lead time that B had derived from misappropriation had been removed.
If a misappropriator either has not taken advantage of lead time or good faith competitors already have caught up with a misappropriator at the time that a case is decided, future disclosure and use of a former trade secret by a misappropriator will not damage a trade secret owner and no injunctive restraint of future disclosure and use is appropriate. See e.g., Northern Petrochemical Co. v. Tomlinson, 484 F.2d 1057 (CA7, 1973) (affirming trial court's denial or preliminary injunction in part because an explosion at its plant prevented an alleged misappropriator from taking advantage of lead time); Kubik, Inc. v. Hull, 185 USPQ 391 (Mich.App.1974) (discoverability of trade secret by lawful reverse engineering made by injunctive relief punitive rather than compensatory).
Section 2(b) deals with the special situation in which future use by a misappropriator will damage a trade secret owner but an injunction against future use nevertheless is inappropriate due to exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances include the existence of an overriding public interest which requires the denial of a prohibitory injunction against future damaging use and a person's reasonable reliance upon acquisition of a misappropriated trade secret in good faith and without reason to know of its prior misappropriation that would be prejudiced by a prohibitory injunction against future damaging use. Republic Aviation Corp. v. Schenk, 152 USPQ 830 (N.Y.Sup. Ct.1967) illustrates the public interest justification for withholding prohibitory injunctive relief. The court considered that enjoining a misappropriator from supplying the U.S. with an aircraft weapons control system would have endangered military personnel in Vietnam. The prejudice to a good faith third party justification for withholding prohibitory injunctive relief can arise upon a trade secret owner's notification to a good faith third party that the third party has knowledge of a trade secret as a result of misappropriation by another. This notice suffices to make the third party a misappropriator thereafter under Section 1(2)(ii)(B)(I). In weighing an aggrieved person's interests and the interests of a third party who has relied in good faith upon his or her ability to utilize information, a court may conclude that restraining future use of the information by the third party is unwarranted. With respect to innocent acquirers of misappropriated trade secrets, Section 2(b) is consistent with the principle of 4 Restatement Torts (First) Section 758(b) (1939), but rejects the Restatement's literal conferral of absolute immunity upon all third parties who have paid value in good faith for a trade secret misappropriated by another. The position taken by the Uniform Act is supported by Forest Laboratories, Inc. v. Pillsbury Co., 452 F.2d 621 (CA7, 1971) in which a defendant's purchase of assets of a corporation to which a trade secret had been disclosed in confidence was not considered to confer immunity upon the defendant.
When Section 2(b) applies, a court has discretion to substitute an injunction conditioning future use upon payment of a reasonable royalty for an injunction prohibiting future use. Like all injunctive relief for misappropriation, a royalty order injunction is appropriate only if a misappropriator has obtained a competitive advantage through misappropriation and only for the duration of that competitive advantage. In some situations, typically those involving good faith acquirers of trade secrets misappropriated by others, a court may conclude that the same considerations that render a prohibitory injunction against future use inappropriate also render a royalty order injunction inappropriate. See, generally, Prince Manufacturing, Inc. v. Automatic Partner, Inc., 198 USPQ 618 (N.J.Super.Ct.1976) (purchaser of misappropriator's assets from receiver after trade secret disclosed to public through sale of product not subject to liability for misappropriation).
A royalty order injunction under Section 2(b) should be distinguished from a reasonable royalty alternative measure of damages under Section 3(a). See the Comment to Section 3 for discussion of the differences in the remedies.
Section 2(c) authorizes mandatory injunctions requiring that a misappropriator return the fruits of misappropriation to an aggrieved person, e.g., the return of stolen blueprints or the surrender of surreptitious photographs or recordings.
Where more than one person is entitled to trade secret protection with respect to the same information, only that one from whom misappropriation occurred is entitled to a remedy.
Section 39-8-3. (a) Except to the extent that a material and prejudicial change of position before acquiring knowledge or reason to know of misappropriation renders a monetary recovery inequitable, a complainant is entitled to recover damages for misappropriation. Damages can include both the actual loss caused by misappropriation and the unjust enrichment caused by misappropriation that is not taken into account in computing actual loss. In lieu of damages measured by any other methods, the damages caused by misappropriation may be measured by imposition of liability for a reasonable royalty for a misappropriator's unauthorized disclosure or use of a trade secret.
(b) If wilful and malicious misappropriation exists, the court may award exemplary damages in an amount not exceeding twice any award made under subsection (a).
Like injunctive relief, a monetary recovery for trade secret misappropriation is appropriate only for the period in which information is entitled to protection as a trade secret, plus the additional period, if any, in which a misappropriator retains an advantage over good faith competitors because of misappropriation. Actual damage to a complainant and unjust benefit to a misappropriator are caused by misappropriation during this time alone. See Conmar Products Corp. v. Universal Slide Fastener Col, 172 F.2d 150 (CA2, 1949) (no remedy for period subsequent to disclosure of trade secret by issued patent); Carboline Co. v. Jarboe, 454 S.W.2d 540 (Mo.1970) (recoverable monetary relief limited to period that it would have taken misappropriator to discover trade secret without misappropriation). A claim for actual damages and net profits can be combined with a claim for injunctive relief, but, if both claims are granted, the injunctive relief ordinarily will preclude a monetary award for a period in which the injunction is effective.
As long as there is no double counting, Section 3(a) adopts the principle of the recent cases allowing recovery of both a complainant's actual losses and a misappropriator's unjust benefit that are caused by misappropriation. E.g., Tri-Tron International v. Velto, 525 F.2d 432 (CA9, 1975) (complainant's loss and misappropriator's benefit can be combined). Because certain cases may have sanctioned double counting in a combined award of losses and unjust benefit, e.g., Telex Corp. v. IBM Corp., 510 F.2d 894 (CA10, 1975) (per curiam), cert. dismissed, 423 U.S. 802 (1975) (IBM recovered rentals lost due to displacement by misappropriator's products without deduction for expenses saved by displacement; as a result of rough approximations adopted by the trial judge, IBM also may have recovered developmental costs saved by misappropriator through misappropriation with respect to the same customers), the act adopts an express prohibition upon the counting of the same item as both a loss to a complainant and an unjust benefit to a misappropriator.
As an alternative to all other methods of measuring damages caused by a misappropriator's past conduct, a complainant can request that damages be based upon a demonstrably reasonable royalty for a misappropriator's unauthorized disclosure or use of a trade secret. In order to justify this alternative measure of damages, there must be competent evidence of the amount of a reasonable royalty.
The reasonable royalty alternative measure of damages for a misappropriator's past conduct under Section 3(a) is readily distinguishable from a Section 2(b) royalty order injunction, which conditions a misappropriator's future ability to use a trade secret upon payment of a reasonable royalty. A Section 2(b) royalty order injunction is appropriate only in exceptional circumstances; whereas a reasonable royalty measure or damages is a general option. Because Section 3(a) damages are awarded for a misappropriator's past conduct and a Section 2(b) royalty order injunction regulates a misappropriator's future conduct, both remedies cannot be awarded for the same conduct. If a royalty order injunction is appropriate because of a person's material and prejudicial change of position prior to having reason to know that a trade secret has been acquired from a misappropriator, damages, moreover, should not be awarded for past conduct that occurred prior to notice that a misappropriated trade secret has been acquired.
Monetary relief can be appropriate whether or not injunctive relief is granted under Section 2. If a person charged with misappropriation has materially and prejudicially changed position in reliance upon knowledge of a trade secret acquired in good faith and without reason to know of its misappropriation by another, however, the same considerations that can justify denial of all injunctive relief also can justify denial of all monetary relief. See Conmar Products Corp. v. Universal Slide Fastener Co., 172 F.2d 1950 (CA2, 1949) (no relief against new employer of employee subject to contractual obligation not to disclose former employer's trade secrets where new employer innocently had committed forty thousand dollars to develop the trade secrets prior to notice of misappropriation).
If wilful and malicious misappropriation is found to exist, Section 3(b) authorizes the court to award a complainant exemplary damages in addition to the actual recovery under Section 3(a) an amount not exceeding twice that recovery. This provision follows federal patent law in leaving discretionary trebling to the judge even though there may be a jury, compare 35 U.S.C. Section 284 (1976).
Whenever more than one person is entitled to trade secret protection with respect to the same information, only that one from whom misappropriation occurred is entitled to a remedy.
Section 39-8-4. If (i) a claim of misappropriation is made in bad faith, (ii) a motion to terminate an injunction is made or resisted in bad faith, or (iii) wilful and malicious misappropriation exists, the court may award reasonable attorney's fees to the prevailing party.
Section 4 allows a court to award reasonable attorney fees to a prevailing party in specified circumstances as a deterrent to specious claims of misappropriation, to specious efforts by a misappropriator to terminate injunctive relief, and to wilful and malicious misappropriation. In the latter situation, the court should take into consideration the extent to which a complainant will recover exemplary damages in determining whether additional attorney's fees should be awarded. Again, patent law is followed in allowing the judge to determine whether attorney's fees should be awarded even if there is a jury, compare 35 U.S.C. Section 285 (1976).
Section 39-8-5. In an action under this chapter, a court shall preserve the secrecy of an alleged trade secret by reasonable means, which may include granting protective orders in connection with discovery proceedings, holding hearings in camera, sealing the records of the action, and ordering any person involved in the litigation not to disclose an alleged trade secret without prior court approval.
If reasonable assurances of maintenance of secrecy could not be given, meritorious trade secret litigation would be chilled. In fashioning safeguards of confidentiality, a court must ensure that a respondent is provided sufficient information to present a defense and a trier of fact sufficient information to resolve the merits. In addition to the illustrative techniques specified in the statute, courts have protected secrecy in these cases by restricting disclosures to a party's counsel and his or her assistants and by appointing a disinterested expert as a special master to hear secret information and report conclusions to the court.
Section 39-8-6. An action for misappropriation must be brought within three years after the misappropriation is discovered or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered. For the purposes of this section, a continuing misappropriation constitutes a single claim.
There presently is a conflict of authority as to whether trade secret misappropriation is a continuing wrong. Compare Monolith Portland Midwest Co. v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp., 407 F.2d 288 (CA9, 1969) (No continuing wrong under California law--limitation period upon all recovery begins upon initial misappropriation) with Underwater Storage, Inc. v. U. S. Rubber Co., 371 F.2d 950 (CADC, 1966), cert. den., 386 U.S. 911 (1967) (continuing wrong under general principles--limitation period with respect to a specific act or misappropriation begins at the time that the act of misappropriation occurs).
This act rejects a continuing wrong approach to the statute of limitations but delays the commencement of the limitation period until an aggrieved person discovers or reasonably should have discovered the existence of misappropriation. If objectively reasonable notice of misappropriation exists, three years is sufficient time to vindicate one's legal rights.
Section 39-8-7. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), this chapter displaces conflicting tort, restitutionary, and other law of this State providing civil remedies for misappropriation of a trade secret.
(B) This chapter does not affect:
(1) contractual remedies, whether or not based upon misappropriation of a trade secret;
(2) other civil remedies that are not based upon misappropriation of a trade secret, including, but not limited to, any civil action brought in the state or federal courts alleging product liability;
(3) criminal sanctions, whether or not based upon misappropriation of a trade secret; or
(4) the provisions of Act 463 of 1986 (South Carolina Tort Claims Act).
This act does not deal with criminal remedies for trade secret misappropriation and is not a comprehensive statement of civil remedies. It applies to a duty to protect competitively significant secret information that is imposed by law. It does not apply to a duty voluntarily assumed through an express or an implied-in-fact contract. The enforceability of covenants not to disclose trade secrets and covenants not to compete that are intended to protect trade secrets, for example, is governed by other law. The act also does not apply to a duty imposed by law that is not dependent upon the existence of competitively significant secret information, like an agent's duty of loyalty to his or her principal.
Section 39-8-8. This chapter shall be applied and construed to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law with respect to the subject of this chapter among states enacting it.
Section 39-8-9. This chapter may be cited as the Uniform Trade Secrets Act."
SECTION 3. If any provision of this chapter or its application to any person or circumstances is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of the chapter which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of the chapter are severable.
SECTION 4. This chapter does not apply to a misappropriation occurring before the effective date. With respect to a continuing misappropriation that began before the effective date, the chapter also does not apply to the continuing misappropriation that occurs after the effective date.
SECTION 5. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
Approved the 15th day of June, 1992.